Avengers Arena is unfair. From the initial announcement of this book, it had everything going against it. We were going to lose one of the very few strong teen books to make way for an obvious cash grab for the Hunger Games scene and, by age discrimination alone, force young heroes to hunt and kill one another. Raise your hand if you were hoping to just get a new Runaways book? These are some fan-favorite characters here, seen in drips and drabs, and when they finally get some on-panel time, we find they’re nothing more than targets in an absurd trap set by villainous joke Arcade. Arcade! Their lives were in peril thanks to low-rent Elton John with a Rube Goldberg fetish!
But the worst sin of Avengers Arena is that it’s actually really good.
Yeah, I am absolutely serious. Avengers Arena has surprising potential, and it has introduced some interesting characters and developments that keep me grudgingly coming back each issue. It’s hard to admit that, considering how much I really wanted to hate this book, based on little more than its Battle Royale cover. Despite the calm, honest words of Avengers Academy writer Christos Gage when he asked readers to give the new book a chance, the whole premise turned me off. When the first issue of Avengers Arena came out and we lost our first teen hero, that death proved how right I was. Why trust a book that’s just going to kill everything you love? And why kids?
It seems unnecessarily cruel to put together an ongoing series promoted to us as sensationally as possible. Don’t get too attached to anyone! Kids will die! They might even kill each other! The shock value of teens in terror can pull the reader right out of the narrative and forces us to look at the value of the story line than just enjoying the ride. Kids have to be killed for a reason, not just as scare tactics and and cheap heat.
So why does the death of children hit us harder than your usual comic book demise? Why is the loss of a child’s life so difficult to bear in the super-heroic medium? And why in heaven’s name do I keep reading Avengers Arena?
Welcome to the very last Food or Comics. Next week our new-release picks will take a different format, but this week we’re still talking about what comics we’d buy at our local shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.
Let’s be honest, if I had $15, I’d make sure that Batman Incorporated #8 (DC Comics, $2.99) was first on my list. Not because of any controversy — I’ve been enjoying the series all along — but because I’d be worried it’d sell out if I waited. I’d also grab two Dynamite books: Jennifer Blood #23 and Masks #4 (both $3.99); Al Ewing has done just insane, amazing things on the former, and the Chris Roberson/Dennis Calero team on the latter is just killing it.
If I had $30, I’d find myself time traveling to all the weeks prior in which I didn’t use all $30 to borrow a dollar from past-me, just so that I could get Showcase Presents Justice League of America, Vol. 6 (DC Comics, $19.99), which takes the series firmly into the 1970s and brings the team face to face with villains including the Shaggy Man, Amazo and countless other favorites of my childhood.
Should I have some splurging left in me after that nostalgia-fest, I’d likely go for the Judge Anderson: PSI Files, Vol. 3 collection (Rebellion, $32.99), which picks the series up just after I’d dropped off the 2000AD radar for awhile, and hopefully gives me the chance to get back into the character, now that I am firmly into Thrill Power again.
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.
If I had $15, I’d be tempted to blow it all on the recolored Death of Superman collection for the ’90s nostalgia. But then I’d probably flip through it and come to my senses, and instead get something new like Fatale #12 ($3.50) by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, which looks like it’s going to be a trip, flashing back to Medieval times but self-contained as a good entry point for new readers. That’s smart comics. Speaking of smarty-pants, I’d probably get The Manhattan Projects #9 ($3.50) by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra. It’s the first part of a two-part story about scientists trying to take over the world. There will probably be lots of words that leave me dizzy. I likely wouldn’t be able to resist Matt Wagner writing The Shadow: Year One #1 ($3.99) because, you know, The Shadow knows. I haven’t been following IDW’s G.I. Joe universe but G.I. Joe #1 ($3.99) by Fred Van Lente and Steve Kurth seems like a good opportunity to try it out. And I’d finish it off with Cyber Force #3 by Marc Silvestri and Koi Pham because it’s free.
With $30, I would add to the above. Darkhawk is on the cover of Avengers Arena #4 ($2.99) by Dennis Hopeless and Alessandro Vitti, so I’d be compelled to buy that. I’ve been meaning to check out Erik Burnham and Dan Schoening’s Ghostbusters since I hear it’s real fun, so the relaunched Ghostbusters #1 ($3.99) is a perfect opportunity. Morning Glories #24 ($2.99) by Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma seems too intriguing to pass up. I am so behind on the X-books, but I’d be real tempted to try Brian Michael Bendis and Chris Bachalo’s Uncanny X-Men #1 ($3.99).
My splurge item would be tough. I’d be real tempted to get either the Iron Man Omnibus collecting the entire run of David Michelinie, Bob Layton and John Romita Jr., including the famous alcoholism story, or Counter X: Generation X – Four Days by Brian Wood. But I’d probably end up instead getting the Daredevil By Mark Waid, Vol. 1 hardcover for $35. I don’t know, do I need to justify this purchase? It’s probably the most beloved superhero comic of last year, maybe for the last couple of years. It paved the way for similarly rejuvenating series at Marvel like Hawkeye, Captain Marvel, and Young Avengers. The art by Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin is swoon-worthy. And it wants to be on my bookshelf, dagnabbit!
While it’s not uncommon to see fans organize in an attempt to save a low-selling comic, it’s rare to see them actually seek a title’s demise. However, that’s the goal of a petition at Change.org, which calls for the cancellation of Avengers Arena, the new Marvel series whose kill-or-be-killed competition premise has invited comparisons to Battle Royale and The Hunger Games.
What’s more, the petitioners ask Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso to “retcon the deaths” that have occurred so far in the comic — there are three to date — which is referred to on the website as a “travesty against fans.” As of this morning, just 61 people had signed on.
Avengers Arena, which launched in December as part of the Marvel NOW! initiative, finds 16 young heroes transported to Arcade’s Murderworld, where they’re forced to fight each other in a series of death matches. “[T]he story is about choices,” writer Dennis Hopeless told Comic Book Resources this week. “These young people have to make some very difficult choices that will affect the course of the rest of their lives — What would you do to protect yourself or your friends? What are you willing to sacrifice? Who are you willing to leave behind? What can you live with? They’re in no way ready to make these decisions, but they have to. To me, that’s what makes a teenage superhero death match relatable. Life is about choices and being young is about making choices you don’t fully understand. Take all the fantasy elements away and Murderworld starts to sound a lot like high school.”
However, the petition’s creator clearly doesn’t view the series as an exploration of deeper themes, but rather as a cold grab for sales.
Sixteen heroes enter, one hero leaves in Avengers Arena, the new Marvel NOW! series by Dennis Hopeless, Kev Walker and Allesandro Vitti. At least that’s the plan of the diabolical Arcade, who drops such young Marvel characters as X-23, Reptil, Nico, Chase, and Juston and his Sentinel into Murderworld for a twisted kill-or-be-killed reality-show scenario.
Marvel has provided ROBOT 6 with an exclusive preview of Avengers Arena #4, by Hopeless and Vitti, which the solicitation text teases pits the Runaways against Avengers Academy. The issue goes on sale Feb. 13.
This week saw the release of another Marvel NOW! title, but this one was a little bit different than the others. For one thing, it isn’t a relaunch of an existing title — at least, not directly — and it’s gotten some attention already for its similarities to The Hunger Games and Battle Royale. Avengers Arena, by Dennis Hopeless, Kev Walker and Frank Martin, has the classic X-Men villain Arcade kidnapping 16 young Marvel heroes and throwing them into Murderworld, where it’s kill or be killed. Plus, y’know, it’s Murderworld, so there’s more to worry about than just your temporary ally turning on you.
So does the book deliver, or does it leave you “hungering” for something else? (Ack, that’s bad; sorry about that). Here are a few reviews from around the web:
Greg McElhatton, Comic Book Resources: “After an opening sequence set (presumably) near the end of the series’ set-up, Hopeless re-introduces readers to the characters that he’s lined up to get kidnapped by Arcade in the latest iteration of his Murderworld complex. Here, these sixteen characters are given 30 days to kill or be killed, with only one allowed to be standing at the end of the time period. If this sounds a little bit like The Hunger Games (or going further back, Battle Royale or even The Long Walk), you aren’t alone in that assessment. Hopeless has Arcade acknowledge the similarity and move forward from there, a nod to the connection between the two. But once you get past that, there’s actually less to get worked up over than you might suspect.” (2.5/5)
Legal | A Belgian court of appeals has ruled that Tintin in the Congo is not racist and stated that the book has “gentle and candid humour.” The ruling came in a case brought in 2007 by Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo, an immigrant from the Congo, and the Belgian Council of Black Associations. Although Herge himself expressed regret in later life for the book, which includes numerous depictions of black characters as stupid and inferior, the court did not support the plaintiffs’ claim that “The negative stereotypes portrayed in this book are still read by a significant number of children. They have an impact on their behaviour.” [Sky News]
Marvel is shaking up its sandbox like seldom before with the launch of Marvel NOW!, making co-stars out of characters that previously had only brief interactions with each other. This strategy of mixing and matching for team books could inject new life into character dynamics, or it could water down what makes characters unique.
At the end of 2004, Marvel and writer Brian Michael Bendis got flak for putting perpetual loner Spider-Man and X-Men-exclusive Wolverine on the same team as Avengers standbys Iron Man and Captain America for the launch of New Avengers. While there are still some fans who complain about this eight years later, sales told Marvel all the publisher needed to know. Soon Luke Cage was an Avenger. Daredevil, too (in a way). Wolverine became a member of everything. Namor became an X-Man. (The Namor I used to read would respond to such a notion with, “the Sub-Mariner will star in thine own perpetually canceled solo series or none at all! Imperius Rex!”)
Now the unexpected mashing together of characters is reaching a new level after the ultimate sandbox throwdown of Avengers vs. X-Men. Who would ever have guessed that Thor and Havok would be teammates (Uncanny Avengers)? New Mutants Cannonball and Sunspot on Hickman’s Avengers is madness! Putting the Punisher on a superhero team (Thunderbolts) is so blasphemous to writer Greg Rucka, he’s done with the character (OK, among some other factors). And Avengers Arena is a veritable grab bag: throw in some Runaways, some Avengers Academy, some Annihilation, and shake vigorously.
Last week Marvel unveiled Dave Johnson’s terrific homage to the Battle Royale movie poster with his cover for the first issue of Avengers Arena, a series launching as part of Marvel NOW! in which 16 young heroes are pitted against each other for entertainment by Arcade. Continuing the brutal theme of child versus child, The Beat now has the first look at Chris Bachalo’s cover for Issue 2, a clever ode to Baron Storrey’s illustration for the 1980 Perigree edition of Lord of the Flies, by William Golding.
Maybe we should’ve expected more homages when editor Bill Rosemann dropped a handful of allusions in a Q&A last week at Marvel.com: “Avengers Arena gives a high concept itch a superhuman scratch. Throughout history, societies have sent their young adults against one another in competition, whether that’s in war, sports or American Idol. Likewise, art has examined this phenomenon of the older generation sacrificing the younger generation—and also of young warring gangs wanting to prove who’s #1—in everything from the myth of Theseus vs. the Minotaur to Lord of the Flies to Battle Royale to Starship Troopers to Survivor to Hunger Games. Teen vs. teen competition is as old as storytelling—but now it’s time to give it the Marvel twist.”
Perhaps then we should look for those Starship Troopers and Hunger Games (ahem) tributes with issues 3 and 4. Avengers Arena, by Dennis Hopeless and Kev Walker, debuts in December.